There may not be a more prestigious honor than being named the captain of an NHL team. Unlike other sports, the large "C" on the jersey is something that has been around for decades and if you're chosen to wear it, you are a special talent in many ways.
Every team, however, has those fans that either love or hate their captain. I am sure everyone on this list will have fans in both corners. However I looked at this objectively to pick my best and worst captains. There are a lot of things that go into what makes a great captain. Most of the players on the best list have led their teams to at least one Stanley Cup win. The rest have showed on and off the ice that they are great leaders and have won numerous awards in the NHL.
The worst captains are a motley crew of overpriced players, players that may be too young to be captain and players who maybe were once good captains but have fallen off a cliff in the last few years. This was an interesting concept for an article because at the time of writing, 12 teams have had a captain for less than one season (four teams have no captain at all).
15 8. Best - Mikko Koivu
Mikko Koivu is pretty much the first and only legit captain in Minnesota Wild history. From the 2000-01 season until the 2008-09 season the Wild had a revolving door of captains. They would pretty much change captains every month. Such "legends" like Jim Dowd, Willie Mitchell, Alex Henry and Brad Bombardir ruined the mystique of being a NHL captain during this time. One steady presence was their assistant captain Mikko Koivu. Koivu even took a couple turns as Captain bur he became the permanent Captain in October of 2009. Since then he has taken over this team,
14 7. Worst - Zdeno Chara
If this was even five years ago I doubt Zdeno Chara would find himself on this list. However, these last few years have not been kind to the hulking Slovak. At 39 years of age it is obvious that Chara's best years are behind him. At his peak Chara was one of the most intimidating players in the NHL. His hit on Max Pacioretty almost led to criminal charges for Chara. Chara has been captain of the Bruins since the 2006-07 NHL season and he was at his best during the 2011-12 season where he had 12 goals and 42 assists in 79 games. Teams knew not to mess with the Bruins because they had Chara. Chara created space for whoever was on the ice and his teammates respected him for it.
13 7. Best - John Tavares
You don't have to be a big and boisterous person to be a great captain. The New York Islanders' John Tavares is a perfect example of that fact. He won't be the guy talking trash in the media. He won't be the player making guarantees of his team's success like Ovechkin. What Tavares does is just lead by example. He takes a stand on the ice and stands up for his teammates. Even as a rookie in the NHL he was looked to as a leader on the Islanders.
12 6. Worst - Henrik Sedin
Henrik Sedin very much embodies the spirit of the Vancouver Canucks. He achieves high stats during the regular season but can't seem to get it done in the playoffs. The Vancouver Canucks had a stretch where they were one of the best teams in the league and at that time Henrik Sedin was their unquestioned leader. He reached career highs during the 2009-10 NHL season with 29 goals and 83 assists for 112 points. Those days are long gone for both the team and the player. Last season, despite making $7 million a season Sedin struggled to 11 goals and 44 assists in 74 games and the Canucks finished well out of the playoffs.
11 6. Best - Erik Karlsson
There is no better defenseman in the NHL than Erik Karlsson (despite whatever Twitter campaign Drew Doughty is running this season). Karlsson has taken over the Ottawa Senators. The Senators took a huge risk back in 2012 signing their young talented budding star to a long term deal at $6.5 million a season. Some analysts said it was awful but Karlsson has proved them all wrong. Last season was his career best statistically as he had 16 goals and 66 assists for 82 points. He finished 4th in scoring in the NHL last season. He is stabilizing force on the Senators having not missed a game in two seasons.
10 5. Worst - Mark Giordano
Mark Giordano is an interesting case as captain of the Calgary Flames. He once fled the team to join the Russian Super League duirng the 2007-08 NHL season due to being unable to get the contract he wanted from the Flames. That doesn't seem like the best leadership quality to flee when you don't get what you want. Giordano came back after one season overseas and started to establish himself on a very weak Flames team. Giordano set the NHL on fire during the 2014-15 season with 48 points in 61 games before a devastating injury knocked him out for the season. Giordano will make $6.75 million for the next six years, which will make him 38 at the end of the term. For a player that has struggled with injuries that is a scary thought. Giordano has missed 61 games between the 2011-12 and 2014-15 NHL seasons.
9 5. Best - Alexander Ovechkin
A couple of years ago Alexander Ovechkin might have found himself on the other side of this list. Under the mentorship of Barry Trotz, Ovechkin has become a complete player who stands up for his teammates. A player that fires up his teammate (as proven by his Game 7 guarantee in the 2015 playoffs) he failed in his Messier moment through no fault of his own as Ovie scored his team's only goal and had the team on his back. The Ovie of old likely would have choked in the moment. Ovechkin has become this complete player without sacrificing his offensive ability, having scored over 50 goals a year the last three seasons.
8 4. Worst - Max Pacioretty
Captains are relied upon to lead teams to greatness. They are supposed to be able to bring lesser teams to some semblance of success and lead good teams to great heights. They also are supposed to be looked to as a leading force in the locker room and making sure the team runs harmoniously. Max Pacioretty failed at this in every aspect during the 2015-16 season. He allegedly carried a feud with star player P.K. Subban, which may have had a part in his trade to the Nashville Predators (a trade that most pundits think the habs lost).
7 4. Best - Ryan Getzlaf
Ryan Getzlaf has been a stabilizing influence for his teammates on the Anaheim Ducks. Getzlaf was named captain prior to the 2010-11 NHL season but Getzlaf's leadership ability goes way beyond the ice. Ryan Getzlaf played junior with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League, and to this day Getzlaf maintains a program with the Calgary Hitmen called "Getzlaf's Gamers," which allows underprivileged children to attend games. It is a selfless act that makes countless kids happy. It is very similar to how Ryan Getzlaf plays the game of hockey. He will never be the guy that scores 50 goals in a season but at least 50 assists is something he has achieved six times thus far in his career, leading the Ducks in assists for the last eight seasons. He is always looking to set up his teammates and this selfless play has led to much success for his Ducks' teams.
6 3. Worst - Nick Foligno
Nick Foligno is an interesting case as one of the worst captains in the NHL. He had a hell of a great season during the 2014-15 season. He reached career highs of 31 goals and 42 assists for 73 points. It was shortly after this great year that the Blue Jackets announced on May 20th, 2015 that Foligno was the new captain, filling the void that Rick Nash left in 2012. Foligno was also signed to a huge contract extension ($5.5 million a year for the next five seasons). What happened? He took a nosedive in every statistical category imaginable. He struggled last season, as he had 12 goals and 25 assists in 72 games played. His team lost the first eight games of the season leading to their head coach being fired. Anything that could have gone wrong for Nick Foligno went wrong last season.
5 3. Best - Shane Doan
No player has meant more to his franchise than what Shane Doan has meant to the Coyotes. He has been with the team through three different names (Winnipeg Jets, Phoenix Coyotes, Arizona Coyotes). Having never played for another franchise, Shane Doan has repeatedly shown his loyalty and leadership to a usually struggling Coyotes team. Shane Doan is the longest tenured captain in the NHL, having been named captain during the 2003-04 NHL season. Shane Doan led his team in scoring from 2003 until 2011, taking a struggling team on his back for many of those seasons.
4 2. Worst - Gabriel Landeskog
Gabriel Landeskog was named captain of the Colorado Avalanche on September 4th, 2012. Landeskog became the youngest captain in NHL history at the age of 19 years and 286 days. Since then Landeskog and the Avalanche have struggled to reach expectations. Landeskog has struggled with injuries, already only playing 36 games during the lockout season of 2012-13 where the Avalanche finished dead last in the Western Conference.
3 2. Best - Sidney Crosby
Sidney Crosby is not only one of the greatest captains in the NHL but he is trusted by his country to lead his team into battle in every international competition he plays in these days. This year Sidney Crosby captains a team full of captains for team Canada in the World Cup. As hated as he is by some, he is beloved by others. Whether you love him or hate him, Crosby has established himself as one of the greatest players in the NHL. Crosby showed his leadership ability early on in his career as he was offered the C during the 2006-07 season but he declined, as he didn't want to disrupt the team chemistry.
2 1. Worst - Brian Gionta
1 1. Best - Jonathan Toews
The Chicago Blackhawks have been Jonathan Toews' team since the day he was drafted. The Blackhawks named him captain on July 18th, 2008 making Toews the 4th youngest captain of all time. He was however named cCaptain after the shortest amount of career games played at only 64. Since becoming captain, Toews has led the Chicago Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup wins (2010, 2013, and 2015). Toews won the Conn Smythe trophy in 2010 where he led the Hawks with 7 goals and 22 assists in 22 games. The best players play great in the playoffs and Toews has 39 goals, 69 assists and 108 points in 124 games.
The NHL has recognized Toews great leadership ability, with Toews winning the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2015 after being a finalist in 2013 and 2014. Patrick Kane might get all the headlines out of Chicago but it is Toews' stable influence on the ice that allows Kane to be so free to create scoring chances like he does. Toews leads this team on the ice and off of it. No player has had a bad thing to say about Toews' leadership ability in the locker room. The Blackhawks had long been a struggling franchise and it is no small coincidence that all this changed with the arrival of "Captain Serious" Jonathan Toews.
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